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Lighting Magic: LED verses Incandescent

The new LED lights are excellent for their savings in electricity and therefore money, their cooler temperature, and kudos for being environmentally friendlier. However, they are substantially more expensive and LED lights and do not photograph well (not a concern for everyone, but certainly for professional photographs). And even with the ‘warm white’ options, they are far cooler (bluer) in color than incandescent, making the overall effect of the tree colder than it would be with the warm yellowed glow incandescent lights provide.

LED lights generate very little heat so they will last up to ten times longer than incandescent and because of their low wattage use, depending on the brand, up to 40 strands can be plugged together (To determine exactly how many you can connect, follow the directions on the package.) This fact alone makes them so much easier to use outdoors, and I also like the ‘warm white’ LED for outdoor use because of their crisp, bright light. I have to say, I’m not a fan of the ‘cool white’ options, because they are too blue – unless you are creating something where blue works with the overall design.

A short note about brands of lighting - I have used GKI/Bethlehem Lights for almost two decades. While more expensive than other brands their quality is well worth the extra expense. I’ve used less expensive brands in a pinch and never been as pleased. Time is a precious commodity for most of us and stringing lights has never been my favorite part of designing a project, so it is important that the lights are easy to work with, stay lit and last a long time. (….and their micro lights are my absolutely favorite string of lights)

I suspect in time LED will be the only lights available, the price will come down and we will get used to living our lives under LED and fluorescent lighting, but until then I will continue to light my trees with the warm, soft glow of incandescent lights – even the spelling of the word reminds me of candlelight, which is how I would truly like to light my tree.

Fast Facts

Pros to Incandescent Lights

  • Lovely warm white light similar to candlelight.

  • Photograph well.

  • Lower priced.

Cons to Incandescent Lights

  • Require far more electricity to operate.

  • Produce a lot of heat which is not good for fresh trees and causes the string to fail sooner.

  • Do not last as long as LED.

Pros to LED Lights

  • Less heat generated, making them ‘kinder’ to living trees and more durable so they last much longer than incandescent.

  • Can string up to 40 strands together depending on the amps the string draws (follow package directions).

  • Use 1/10 the power of incandescent, costing far less cost to operate.

  • Last up to 10 times longer than incandescent bulbs.

  • Produce brighter light.

  • Lights are run by a computer chip, so they are very resistant to damage from vibration.

Cons to LED Lights

  • Substantially more expensive than incandescent.

  • Even the ‘warm white’ version of LED lights is cooler in color than incandescent.

  • Their color and brightness does not photograph well, tending to dominate the picture.

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